Chemistry Major
Certificate in Applications of Computing

Why did you enroll in the Integrated Science course?

I got the email over the summer recommending Integrated Science to me, and as soon as I read that I could learn about quantum mechanics and the patterning of zebra stripes in the same class, I was sold. I have always loved the sciences, and when I was a freshman, I had no idea which one I really wanted to major in. Integrated Science sounded like the best opportunity to find that out.

What has it been like?

Integrated Science (ISC) has been without a doubt the most difficult course I have taken at Princeton, but also by far the most important and rewarding. It really challenges you to pick up concepts quickly, and the incredible breadth and depth — especially given the pace of some the topics — of what we covered still surprises me. For instance, we did basically all of optics in one week – from wave-particle duality, to single slit diffraction, to gratings taking Fourier transforms. But thanks to ISC, no course syllabus will ever intimidate me again. And there has been no science or mathematics class that I have taken at Princeton since that has not built upon what I learned in that class. Integrated Science taught me the concepts that explain physics, chemistry, biology and computer science, and, more importantly, it taught me how to learn science.

How has the course benefited you academically, and has it made you think about what to do after you graduate?

Integrated Science taught me not just about managing heavy workloads and picking up concepts quickly — although it did that quite well — it also set a scientific foundation that I am still building on. I have recognized concepts, problems and approaches from Integrated Science in my thermodynamics class, my differential equations class, my quantum class, and basically every other science class I have taken. And that incredibly wide knowledge base, as well as a fundamental grounding in the realities of lab work, has given me a leg up in basically all of my classes.

The course really challenges the idea of separate scientific disciplines, and that’s definitely something that I will continue to carry with me long after I graduate. The summer after my freshman year, I worked in a genomics lab with one of my ISC professors. That fall, I took the physics and computer science departmental requirements at the urging of a different ISC professor because I might want to major in those later. The summer after that, I did an internship at the University of Tokyo in chemistry, which I found out about through the Lewis-Sigler Institute. This past summer I interned under the chief technologist at the Federal Trade Commission, something I never would have done if I hadn’t taken computer science in Integrated Science. The course has provided me so many opportunities to find where my passion is in science — from biology to physics to chemistry to computer science. I'm the interdisciplinary chemistry major I am thanks in large part to the opportunities Integrated Science provided me to try everything, and be qualified to try everything.

How do you like working with the various Integrated Science faculty?

One of the most impressive things about Integrated Science, and the one you miss the most as soon as you leave, is the sheer number of really great faculty you get to interact with. There’s a lot of attention, and getting to know that many stellar instructors was a lot of fun. I still like to drop by and chat with some of my former ISC professors, just because they made such an impact.

What is it like going through the Integrated Science curriculum with a close cohort of student peers?

It’s pretty much the best thing. Staying up late together to solve a difficult problem, or watching a Disney movie to de-stress after a long midterm is, in my mind, one of the quintessential college experiences, and you won't really find better people to do that with than ISC students. Working in a smaller group will also teach you a lot about how you learn and how to teach others. The problem sessions were probably the most collaborative work environments I've been in. The people I met in Integrated Science turned into some of my closest friends. One of them is my current roommate. A group of 10 of us founded the Institute for Chocolate Studies (ICS) – yes the pun was intended — our sophomore year, and that club has been one of my favorite activities at Princeton. There isn't a day that goes by where I don't see someone from ISC and I wish it could stay that way.